After Hepatitis A Scare from China-Imported Berries, Australian Government Awaits Laboratory Tests to Determine Further Actions

A spate of hepatitis A infections being observed in Australia are being linked to batches of imported frozen berries that could possibly have been contaminated. Following this health scare, calls for more stringent food import inspections and labeling have become stronger, forcing the Australian PM Tony Abbot to respond with definite actions.

However, a primary round of studies now states that such loopholes could possibly be a result of non-compliance on the suppliers’ part, and there is not much that government action could have done to prevent the contaminated berries from reaching consumers. 

Currently, detailed scientific results are awaited from laboratory tests. This will help ascertain if the frozen raspberries were contaminated and whether the fault lies with the Chinese supplier of berries. Currently, reports in the media speculate that the fault could lie with failure in protocol pertaining to personal hygiene. These lapses could have potentially occurred at the processing or even harvesting stage.

Experts opine on the matter that government intervention would work best when it comes to matters such as chemical residues and systemic issues pertaining to routine inspections. China on its part, has a number of regulatory mandates to detect food contamination, with a different set of rules for exported food. Chinese export standards are much more stringent than their current standards. Food exports are under the charge of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), which is a ministry-level body. The regulations laid down by this body mandate that exporters have to follow both domestic and export requirements. 

Separately, in Australia, results from ongoing laboratory tests will help ascertain the actual reason for the slip up that led to the Hepatitis scare. It is only then that the government will be able to respond to specific calls about deploying more stringent import regulations.


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